I’m going to stick my next out here and make some observations about render engines. These observations are based on both my own opinions and the feedback we hear from our customers and from the pull in the market in the UK.
V-Ray: the go-to render engine for most people. Especially popular for environments, backgrounds and static, very high resolution images. And it’s fast.
Corona: the new kid on the block and gaining significant traction with high-end architectural visualisation for its fidelity, speed and ease of use.
Cinema 4D’s Physical Render Engine: given the popularity of Cinema 4D with freelancers and small studios across the UK, and the ease of use and quality of results this is very popular.
Arnold: used by big studios and very well-regarded, Arnold delivers fantastic results and is reasonably quick.
RenderMan: for many animators, this is still the most popular and best render engine, and Pixar continue to innovate. The change in licensing that allowed non-commercial use of RenderMan for free last year dramatically increased the usage of RenderMan in universities and for hobbyists.
mental ray: whilst the number of people who have mental ray as standard with 3ds Max and Maya is significant, the feedback that we hear is that people are currently preferring to use other render engines. Many independent film makers use it for some lovely animations.
Maxwell: does anything look better than Maxwell? I’ve heard it referred to as the ‘correct’ render engine. However, we’ve found that for the customers we speak to in the UK, there aren’t that many regular users.
Redshift: an increasing number of studios are telling us they’re moving to Redshift because it’s so very very fast and the render quality is very high. Is this an indication of the future of 3D rendering?
There are lots of other render engines available, but I think this is a good enough list for now.
As for which is the best? It depends what you mean. For many, the render engine they use is a choice based on a combination of ease of use, look and feel of the quality of output and price. So, the best is the one that’s right for you.